We’re big supporters of the principles behind the B Corp movement, but we want to do more than just "spread the love" about it, we want to share the sustainability success stories from other B Corps! Each month we’ll be publishing an interview with a sustainability champion of a B Corp – and this month we are featuring Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams!
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was founded in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio by Jeni Britton Bauer. Today, in addition to the company’s thriving nationally available home, grocery, and restaurant delivery business, Jeni and her team operate 16 scoop shops from Chicago to Atlanta. From the beginning, Jeni’s has been praised by many, including The Washington Post (“Sublime”), Saveur (“Revolutionary”), and Time (“the best ice cream in America”). In 2011, Jeni published Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. It became a New York Times best-selling cookbook and won a James Beard Award in 2012. Jeni’s new book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, is available now.
What made your company decide that sustainability was a priority?
I don’t think we ever really made a decision, per se. It’s just always been a part of who we are. Respect and consideration are buried deep in our genes. What we don’t sell, we donate. What we don’t use, we compost. What we believe in, we support.
How do you engage employees in sustainability issues?
Well, we have the pleasure of attracting folks to our company who are already engaged. Jeni’s exists to make the best ice creams possible, but the other half of our mission is equally important: to make the world a better place. So when we look for new team members, we’re looking for more than just a skill set. Luckily, Jeni’s has always drawn creative, talented, and mindful folks to our ranks. Our workforce comes to us with a history of volunteering and composting and using rain barrels and tending gardens and a hundred other amazing things.
Because of this, many of our sustainability and community focused projects are generated from within. I think one of our most difficult challenges is managing the many projects and causes that our employees bring to us.
How are you addressing sustainability issues in your supply chain?
We like to keep our supply chain short and sweet. We know our farmers. We stay local when possible.
We support female and minority-owned businesses when possible. We look for suppliers that are working hard like we do at being good stewards.
One of the things that applying for the B Corp Certification did for us was make us log in just one place all the good things that our farmers and suppliers do for the world. Once we had all the information together, we created a sourcing decision tool. Now, we can see where we are doing well and were we can do better. It also helps us see how changing suppliers affects our initiatives.
Looking down our supply chain, we know we can do better. And we are instituting new programs to do just that. Our new Ship Back program allows our customers, both home shipping and wholesale retailers to send back the styrofoam coolers we use to ship ice cream back to us free of charge. We reuse the coolers as many times as we can. Then when they are no longer structurally sound, we take them over to the Columbus’ only styrofoam recycling center. Some day we hope to eliminate styrofoam from our shipments entirely. But while we test alternatives and work towards that lofty goal, we do what we can to reduce our usage.
How do you stay on top of emerging sustainability issues?
A combination of streaming digital information and group discussion among peers keeps us apprised of what’s new and good.
I must get 20 sustainability newsletters a day in my inbox. From Maine Organic Farmers to GovTrack to GreenBiz, I get them all. And my twitter feed is full of all the best links from Mother Nature Network, Bill McKibbon, B Corp, Grist, Mark Gunther, and Sierra Club.
And there are plenty of local groups here in Columbus where great minds come together to share and solve: CivicHacks, Ohio By-Product Synergy Network, BESA, and Green Columbus, and US Business Council for Sustainable Development to name just a few.
Who or what inspires your company in its sustainability journey?
We have so many great companies to look to and thank for paving a good chunk of this road. Ben & Jerry’s of course. They have always stood for what they believe in and their customers love them for it. Even within a giant corporation, they have kept their flag flying.
King Arthur Flour does an absolutely amazing job at treating their employees and the planet the way we all wish we could be treated. And their humble nature constantly keeps us in check.
Chipotle. They are making changes that the whole industry will benefit from and we love them for it.
And Clif Bar. Wow. Have you checked out all the amazing things they are doing around the country? This company is good through and through.
I’m constantly amazed at how much companies can do when they put their mind to it. We are certainly not short on sustainability icons.
About Christine Deye, Director of Community & Environmental Stewardship
Christine has wound her way through many adventures and interesting roles before finding a home at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Just prior to joining Jeni's, Christine received her MBA from OSU Fisher College of Business. While attending Fisher, she was president of the OSU chapter of Net Impact, a national organization that believes in people, planet, and profit. It was here where business school finally began to make sense.
After graduating, Christine came on board at Jeni’s. After managing the marketing team for year, her new role was created. In charge of all of Jeni's philanthropic and sustainability initiatives, her world is full of Certified B Corporation initiatives, employee gardens, and finding ways to save resources and the planet as the Good Witch of the Midwest.